Technical FAQ

This FAQ provides answers to the most common questions we receive about thermoelectric cooling, our products, services and the Thermal Wizard Selection Tool.

If you cannot find an answer to your question, please contact us.

Thermoelectric cooling is a way to pump heat from one side of a device to the other by applying voltage between two electrodes connected to a sample of semiconductor material. The temperature differential that appears, which is known as the Peltier Effect, can be used for cooling, heating and precise temperature control for various applications.
Thermoelectric coolers, also referred to as Peltier Coolers, are solid-state heat pumps that require DC voltage to dissipate heat using the Peltier effect. A Thermoelectric cooler consists of an array of p-and n-type semiconductor materials that are soldered between two ceramic plates. During operation, electric current flows through the module to create heat transfer and a temperature differential across the ceramic plates resulting in one cold and one hot side of the Thermoelectric cooler.
  • Thermoelectric coolers have no moving parts; their solid-state construction results in higher reliability, lower maintenance and lower overall operating costs.
  • Solid-state construction also allows Thermoelectric coolers to be mounted in any orientation.
  • A compact form factor makes them suitable for applications where size constraints exist.
  • Thermoelectric coolers can cool well below ambient. By using a multistage thermoelectric cooler in a vacuum environment, the device can reach a temperature of -100°C.
  • Thermoelectric coolers can achieve precise temperature control (up to ± 0.01°C under steady state) because they are able to heat and cool by simply reversing polarity, which changes direction of the heat transfer. This ability also makes them suitable for applications requiring both cooling and heating.
  • Thermoelectric coolers are also environmentally friendly because they do not use hazardous CFC’s or produce electrical noise.
  • Thermoelectric coolers are highly reliable because they have a solid-state construction with no moving parts. They are also known for having a high mean time between failures (MTBFs). It is difficult to estimate the lifetime of a thermoelectric cooler, due to the variables in application conditions such as changes to heat load, on/off cycling, heat or cooling, drive circuit and system design with protection against condensation. All variables can influence the product’s lifetime.

    However, for demanding applications such as modern diagnostic, which require high rates of thermal cycling, the PC Series thermoelectric coolers have been tested to withstand over 1,000,000 thermal cycles without degradation in performance.
    Yes, thermoelectric coolers can be used for heating in certain applications. In fact, a thermoelectric cooler can be more effective than a resistive heater since it can utilize heat from the ambient temperature in addition to the heat generated from the cooler itself.
    The OptoTEC™ is our smallest thermoelectric module starting at 1.8 x 3.4 x 2.4-mm (LxWxH) with a cooling capacity of 0.2 Watts.
    Our largest thermoelectric module is the UltraTEC Series. At 52 x 56 x 4.5mm (LxWxH), the UltraTec Series thermoelectric cooler offers a cooling capacity of 340 Watts.
    Yes, thermoelectric modules are compatible with vacuum since they have no organics on any material that would outgas. The only restriction would be to not use PVC insulated leads, because PVC out-gasses. Teflon leads and un-insulated wire leads would be preferred.
    There are three different ways of mounting thermoelectric coolers; soldering, compression with mechanical hardware or epoxy. The most suitable method depends on the application and the size of the footprint. Thermoelectric coolers can be mounted in any orientation. Read the TEM Handbook manual for more information.
    Thermoelectric coolers have a very high temperature accuracy since the applied current is relative to the cooling it generates. Temperature control accuracy up to ±0.01°C can be achieved under steady state condition with a temperature controller of same accuracy to this tolerance.
    The maximum operating temperature of standard thermoelectric coolers is 80⁰C. For higher temperatures, our HiTemp ET Series thermoelectric cooler offer cooling for applications with ambient temperatures up to 150°C. For thermoelectric cooler assemblies, the Outdoor Cooler Series has the widest capacity range with an operational capacity from -40°C to +55°C ambient. The SuperCool Series thermoelectric cooler assembly can withstand the highest temperature of 60°C.
    Yes. The Multistage Series is able to reach colder temperatures than single stage thermoelectric coolers. Laird Thermal Systems offers two, three, four and five stage thermoelectric coolers that achieve temperature differentials of up to 131°C in a vacuum. The drawback is efficiency will go down with each stage.
    Thermoelectric cooling systems are most beneficial in applications with
    • Tight space constraints
    • Low heat load capacities, typically less than < 400W
    • Control temperatures below ambient
    • Precise temperature control
    • Heating and cooling
    Our standard products can be found in our product portfolio:
    Thermoelectric Modules
    Thermoelectric Assemblies
    Liquid Cooling Systems
    Temperature Controllers
    These units have specific heat transfer methods, cooling capacity ranges or size constraints and can be ordered upon request from our distribution partners. If the capacity, size or other parameters of our standard products do not meet your application requirements you may need a customized solution. Laird Thermal Systems has the ability to customize our entire product range, however MOQ’s apply.

    To optimize performance and long-life operation, an application could require a customized thermal management solution. Also cooling capacities above 5 kW typically require a custom solution. Laird Thermal Systems designs and manufactures customized, thermal management solutions for performance-critical applications to optimize your product’s performance.

    Laird Thermal Systems offers strong engineering design services with a global presence that supports onsite concept generation, thermal modeling, mechanical and electrical design and rapid prototyping. The company also offers validation test services to meet unique compliance standards for each industry, such as UL, Telcordia, or a unique standard specific to a medical, industrial or semiconductor application.

    For assistance in achieving the optimum thermal management solution for your next product development contact a Laird thermal expert.
    • Our Liquid Cooling Systems have the highest cooling capacity in our standard product portfolio. The largest capacity is our Ambient Cooling Systems with cooling capacities up to 5 kW. Custom solutions have been designed with capacities greater than 40 kW’s.
    • The largest capacity of a thermoelectric cooler assembly is our Outdoor Cooler Series AA-480 and it has a cooling capacity of 480 Watts.
    • The largest capacity of a thermoelectric cooler is the UltraTEC Series UT15-288-F2-5252-TA-W6 and it has a cooling capacity of 340 Watts.
    A standard solution is typically designed for general purpose applications. Since there are an unlimited number of application possibilities, standards cannot fulfill all application requirements. Achieving a fine-tuned specification generally results in some level of customization, whether it is capacity vs form factor or efficiency. Trial and test validation typically leads to determining if a standard is suitable for application or not.
    Yes, Laird Thermal Systems offers temperature controllers for Thermoelectric Cooler Assemblies and Thermoelectric Coolers. Our Temperature Controllers can power Thermoelectric Coolers and fans and receive inputs from thermistors. Controllers can be programmed to maintain a precise temperature or heat and cool. More advanced options are available for fan control, alarm sensors and accommodating product development with GUI to PC. Learn more about our Temperature controllers here.
    Yes, Laird Thermal Systems offers self-contained Liquid Cooling Systems
    liquid cooling systems (LCS) that recirculate a coolant to a preprogrammed temperature setpoint.
    • Liquid heat exchangers can reduce the thermal resistance of conventional heat sink fan dissipation mechanisms by a factor of 10 or more, which makes it much more efficient. This is due to the poor thermal properties of air versus coolants such as water.
    • Liquid cooling systems have a more rapid cool down time, which means less time to reach the desired temperature.
    • While conventional air cooling systems push air all around the system, and can potentially add heat from surrounding hot electronics, liquid cooling systems are equipped with a heat exchanger that routes heat away through a liquid circuit.
    • Air-cooling systems in the higher capacity range often require larger fans, which can increase noise as well as the size of the system.
    The Thermal Wizard is a product search and selection tool that helps engineers find the optimal thermal management solution for thermoelectric coolers, thermoelectric cooler assemblies and liquid cooling systems.
    Laird Thermal Systems has developed the Thermal Wizard — a quick and easy selection tool helping customers determine the optimum cooling solution. To begin the selection process, users can input two application performance requirements; the required cooling power (Qc) and the desired temperature change (ΔT). If you know these specifications the Thermal Wizard product search will show thermoelectric coolers, thermoelectric cooler assemblies or liquid cooling systems that meet your application demands.
    Yes. The Thermal Wizard provides four calculators for Device Cooling, Enclosure Cooling, Air Cooling and Liquid Cooling with preprogrammed examples. Each calculator has several examples to help you get started. Once you have determined the Qc value, you are able to specify the appropriate thermoelectric products.
    Laird Thermal Systems can assist you from the start with concept and specification development taking all thermal, mechanical and electrical aspects into account. We can support with onsite concept generation, thermal modeling, flow analysis, mechanical design, electrical design and rapid prototyping.
    Yes. We have a great deal of experience building prototypes for our customers. As a global company we can offer onsite concept generation, thermal modeling, thermal design and rapid prototyping.
    We offer validation test services to support compliance standards for each industry, including UL/CSA and MIL‐STDs. Our in-house test capabilities support:
    • Noise measurement
    • Cooling capacity
    • Pressure and flow rates
    • Electronic drive circuit testing
    • Reliability testing
    • G‐force testing
    • High temp oven storage testing
    • Temperature cycling
    • Continuous operation testing